One of the most popular devices used in homes throughout Ireland is the iPad. It is certainly something that has made online connectivity a part of day to day life. Often children as young as 18 months can know how to swipe the screen to activate the iPad. Ipads are increasingly becoming a central part of education in both primary and secondary schools. As part of our Zeeko All Ireland Digital Trend Report, we asked primary school children what device they used to access the internet, 67% of 3rd class pupils, 62% of 4th class and 59% of 5th class pupils told us that they use tablet devices, including iPads, to access the internet.

At our parent seminars in primary schools, we regularly hear that parents are concerned not only about what their children are doing online, but the amount of time they are spending online and whether it is a good idea, or not, to allow their children to use iPads both at home and at school. So, what are the things you need to consider when deciding whether or not an iPad is the right device for use by your family?

What will the iPad mostly be used for: Do you plan for your child to use the iPad just for educational purposes or is it going to be a device used by the entire family? If the reason for purchasing an iPad is so that your child can use it, at the request of their school, it is a good idea to talk with your child’s teacher about what apps will be loaded on to the device and what particular e-texts will be needed. If you have concerns about the amount of time that your child will be spending on screens, as a result implementing a screetime policy would be sensible. It would also be helpful to remind your child of the Stop, Block, Tell Rule regarding content they may come across in the course of the school day. Also, encouraging your child to share this Rule with their classmates will also help to ensure that they all stay safe while online. You might also like to share the 5:1 Rule focusing on time spent online versus ‘time in the real word’, with other parents and your child’s teacher.

Using the iPad for recreational purposes: If the main purpose of having an iPad in your house is for recreation, education of course will still play a large role, as many young children are initially introduced to the internet on an iPad and may use it to play games and also learn about the world around them.  Older children will of course use the iPad to surf the internet and use social media. As always, communication will be central here. Using active mediation to moderate and monitor the amount of time is spent and what your child is doing while they are online is a positive move. As we all know, children learn best by example, so if you are encouraging your child to have a balance with the time they are spending on the iPad, it would be good to see you as a parent modelling that.

Remember Safety Settings: Regardless of what an iPad is being used for, it is always a good idea to check and refresh the devices’ safety settings. This is particularly important if there are children of different ages using the iPad. While safety settings do not guarantee online safety they certainly help.

Ultimately, the use of any digital device by your child is your choice as their parent. The most important things to bear in mind are to encourage open communication and balance in relation your child’s digital journey.

Here is an interesting article on the pros and cons of the use of iPads by young and older children:

The Zeeko Internet Safety Guide offers more comprehensive advice on keeping your child safe online. You can buy a copy of the book here.

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